We operate in public water areas
Areas within Finland’s territorial waters are called public water areas. Outside the territorial waters is the exclusive economic zone of Finland, which is regulated on different principles. In addition to the sea areas, public water areas include the open stretches of some of the larger inland lakes.
The public water areas, including the lake and sea bottoms, are the property of the Finnish state, except for the water areas owned by the Åland region. The state owned sea areas within Finnish territorial waters are controlled by Metsähallitus. Metsähallitus also carries out the duties of the property owner. There is ready-made legislation for the development of offshore wind power in public water areas, according to which we can act.
According to Minister of the Environment and Climate Kai Mykkänen, Finland has excellent opportunities to become a clean energy superpower. Clean energy projects are crucially influenced by the availability and price of clean electricity, smooth licensing and good transfer connections. Offshore wind power plays a significant role in this vision. Therefore, the Finnish Government is launching projects to improve its conditions for growth.
Legislative work in the exclusive economic zone to begin
Offshore wind power companies have indicated a growing interest in the exclusive economic zone, despite the areas being located further away from the coast and the power transfer distance being longer than in projects in territorial waters.
The Act on the Exclusive Economic Zone of Finland is applied to the operations within the zone. The permit process for economic activities – as laid out in the 2005 Act – was not originally established with offshore wind power projects in mind, and the legislation should be further developed in this regard. As such, legislation does not always provide clear solutions to issues that arise from commercial use.
In late October, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment launched a legislative project on offshore wind power located in the exclusive economic zone. The aim is to prepare a law that lays down procedures for the division of areas in the exclusive economic zone, defines the permits required for offshore wind power projects in the exclusive economic zone and brings the exclusive economic zone’s taxation and payment practices in line with public water areas.
The working group seeks ways to promote offshore wind power
As the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment launched its legislative work, Minister of the Environment and Climate Kai Mykkänen appointed a working group to study methods of promoting offshore wind power. The working group is expected to complete its study by the end of June 2024. Metsähallitus is a participant in the group.
The working group’s starting point is that offshore wind turbines are built on market terms. However, significant, long-term projects require a “clear and predictable operating environment and infrastructure required for the construction and maintenance of the projects.”
Offshore wind power must also be coordinated with other maritime activities in order to minimise its harmful effects. To this end, the task of the working group is to bring together the activities of different parties.
Other states also enjoy rights over the exclusive economic zone
The exclusive economic zone of Finland is an international sea area whose borders are determined by agreements between Finland and other countries (Sweden, Estonia, and Russia). In addition to the territorial waters, Finland has jurisdiction over the exclusive economic zone as well as exclusive rights to its natural resources. Finnish law is applied to the protection of the marine environment in the exclusive economic zone.
Other states have the right to navigate and fly over Finland’s exclusive economic zone. They also have the right to lay offshore cables and pipelines. They can also use the zone’s sea areas in ways authorised under international law and compatible with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.